Jackie Coogan: From “The Kid” to Uncle Fester

Born this day in 1914, Jackie Coogan was, like Charlie Chaplin, a child performer, and also like Chaplin, was discovered for the movies while performing on the vaudeville stage. Unlike Chaplin, Coogan was discovered by…Charlie Chaplin.

Coogan’s career describes a “U” shape if you were to trace it on a graph. His early star turns in films like the title role in Chaplin’s The Kid (1921)Oliver Twist (1922) and Huckleberry Finn (1931), and many more besides….and then a fallow couple of decades when Hollywood didn’t know what to do with him.

And then he re-emerged as a bald, dumpy, whiny middle-aged man in the late 1940s and suddenly was castable again. His most famous role during these years was of course was Uncle Fester on The Addams Family (1964-66), but he worked almost constantly through the end of his life in 1984, often in bit parts, but by god he was working – -and always recognizable.  (I can see him right now in my mind’s eye, as a bad guy on Hawaii Five O.)

To find out more about  the history of vaudeville, where Jackie Coogan got his start, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

 

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.